Melbourne: World No. 1 Rafael Nadal weathered a fierce storm from gutsy showman Nick Kyrgios Monday to set up an Australian Open quarter-final against Dominic Thiem and keep alive his quest for a 20th Grand Slam title.
The Spanish top seed came through a riveting clash on Rod Laver Arena 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 to end the gallant hopes of the basketball-mad Australian, who came on court wearing an LA Lakers shirt in honour of Kobe Bryant.
Nadal wore a Lakers hat after the match.
“It is terrible news, I’m super sad,” said the Spaniard. “Kobe was one of the greatest sportsmen in history and deserves a round of big applause.
“He always wanted to increase his level and was an inspiration to the world of sport and a lot of kids.”
On Kyrgios, Nadal added: “It was a very tough match. You are never in control against Nick because he’s so difficult to break. I played a scary game at 5-4, accepted that and tried to find the level of my tennis again.
“When Nick is playing like today he gives a lot of positive things to our sport and I encourage him to keep playing like this because he is one of the highest talents.
“I have liked the Nick Kyrgios during the whole of this tournament.”
Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka produced some of his best tennis in recent years to battle past fourth seed Daniil Medvedev 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 in a seesaw encounter.
Wawrinka will next face seventh seed Alexander Zverev, who reached his first quarter-final in Melbourne with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Russian youngster Andrey Rublev.
In the women's draw, Wimbledon champion Simona Halep overcame Elise Mertens in straight sets, while Garbine Muguruza moved into her first Grand Slam quarter-final in nearly two years with a comfortable win over Kiki Bertens.
Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova fought back from a set down against former champion Angelique Kerber and finished with an incredible tally of 71 winners in a 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 victory.